Chronic low-level perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) exposure promotes testicular steroidogenesis through enhanced histone acetylation

By Md Nur Alam, Xuejingping Han, Bingru Nan, Liangpo Liu, Meiping Tian, Heqing Shen, and Qingyu Huang
Environ Pollut
July 20, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117518

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), an artificial perfluorinated compound, has been associated with male reproductive disorders. Histone modifications are important epigenetic mediators; however, the impact of PFOS exposure on testicular steroidogenesis through histone modification regulations remains to be elucidated. In this study, we examined the roles of histone modifications in regulating steroid hormone production in male rats chronically exposed to low-level PFOS. The results indicate that PFOS exposure significantly up-regulated the expressions of StAR, CYP11A1 and 3β-HSD, while CYP17A1 and 17β-HSD were down-regulated, thus contributing to the elevated progesterone and testosterone levels. Furthermore, PFOS significantly increased the histones H3K9me2, H3K9ac and H3K18ac while reduced H3K9me3 in rat testis. It is known that histone modifications are closely involved in gene transcription. Therefore, to investigate the association between histone modifications and steroidogenic gene regulation, the levels of these histone marks were further measured in steroidogenic gene promoter regions by ChIP. It was found that H3K18ac was augmented in Cyp11a1 promoter, and H3K9ac was increased in Hsd3b after PFOS exposure, which is proposed to result in the activation of CYP11A1 and 3β-HSD, respectively. To sum up, chronic low-level PFOS exposure activated key steroidogenic gene expression through enhancing histone acetylation (H3K9ac and H3K18ac), ultimately stimulating steroid hormone biosynthesis in rat testis.

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